I got my first big break writing comics when I cold pitched Gotham Chopra, EiC of Virgin Comics in 2006 after reading a news article on his foray into India themed comics. Luckily, he liked my spec script (what’d later become INDIA AUTHENTIC #2 – KALI) and signed me up to write a series of Indian mythological stories with forewords by Deepak Chopra. Somewhere down the line, I was offered DEVI and THE SADHU and then onward to some stories based on characters and storylines I cooked up (e.g. MUMBAI MACGUFFIN and JIMMY ZHINGCHAK – AGENT OF D.I.S.C.O.. It was a work for hire gig (meaning I don’t own the rights to any of the stuff I created), but it was great fun while it lasted. I got to work with industry legends like Ron Marz, built up a decent sized portfolio and got to work with some awesome artists like Sid Kotian, Saumin Patel, Dean Hyrapiet, Abhishek Singh and Shounak Jog etc. I also became friends with other writers/artists working on the Virgin titles like Samit Basu, Mukesh Singh and Vivek Shinde. The Virgin editorial staff consisted of seasoned industry hands like MacKenzie Cadenhead (WOLVERINE: SNINKT) and Mariah Huehner (LUCIFER), movie industry veterans like Seth Jaret and a bunch of young energetic first timers like Sana Amanat, Michelle Gomes and Gaurav Sikka.
All in all, I look back very fondly of my time spent with Virgin Comics and I greatly appreciate Sharad, Suresh and Gotham giving me the chance to write comics (I mean write freakin’ comic books and get paid doing it! 🙂 ). My dayjob (as a co-founder of the web conferencing startup Dimdim) started taking more of my time as did my two kids – Ayan and Adya. So I dialed down the writerly activities a lot in 2010 – 2011 and regrouped. MUMBAI CONFIDENTIAL started gaining traction (in no small measure because of Vivek’s fantastic art) and I also started working with Siddharth Panwar on DHURANDHAR – a modern day magic realism tale set in small town India.
So, I was pleasantly surprised recently when Liquid Comics launched Graphic India – a digital comics platform aimed at India. Featured were two of my books – MUMBAI MACGUFFIN (an action-adventure-comedy caper which was co-created with Saumin and inspired in no small measure by Guy Ritchie’s movies SNATCH and LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS) and MYTHS OF INDIA (a repackaged INDIA AUTHENTIC). I always considered the old Virgin Comics gang kindred spirits who wished to bring kick-ass comics to India and Graphic India is a great reinforcement of that belief. So I wish them the best of luck. (Do check out Samit and Jeevan Kang’s UNHOLI – an original serialized digital comic book exclusively created for the site).
To top off the week’s great news, Times of India posted their list of notable Indian comics and turns out two of my books – DEVI and MUMBAI CONFIDENTIAL made it to the list. So that was just delicious icing on the cake. 🙂
Like parents, creators are duty bound to say that they love all their children equally and like parents, creators always have their personal favorites. One thing I love about being a writer is creating characters. Somehow, I get more pleasure out of creating zany, off-beat supporting characters than the protagonist. Guess growing up on a staple diet of Hindi/Bollywood potboilers had to take its toll somehow. In most Indian movies made between 80-90 (the halcyon days, IMHO — low budgets, huge casts and broad intended appeal) mostly the hero was a cookie cutter avenging angel or an all around nice guy trapped in a bad world. These stories were populated with an unbelievable cast of “Helpers” and “Villains” — those that either helped or hindered the hero in his quest to either change the world or achieve the zen of family wholesomeness.
Long story short, I enjoy designing bad guys and supporting characters.
When working on creator owned projects like MUMBAI CONFIDENTIAL or DHURANDHAR, I have the freedom to build the world and its inhabitants from the ground up. So I can craft each character and add whatever oddities I feel like to make them more “human” :). But as a “work for hire” writer, the properties one deals with already have set personalities as protagonists and antagonists. So as a creator, I always felt that one way I could leave my stamp in those projects was to create some characters around the main cast who’d provide extra flavor.
Enough talk, let’s get down to business. Here’ a list of some characters from the ones I’ve created so far for my Work-For-Hire projects. I shall be writing a series of these dealing with one of my favorite characters in each.
I created this character for the Virgin comics one-shot MUMBAI MACGUFFIN, which was written by me and illustrated by Saumin Patel. I had visualized the story as THREE DAYS OF CONDOR meets SNATCH and set in Mumbai. It’s an action-comedy about a CIA operative who comes to Mumbai to hunt for a downed satellite and ends up facing a cast of weird characters.
Saumin and I created the gangster Ali Shah Jung Bahadur Fakruddin Sheikh (aka Fukku Bhai) as a larger-than-life mob boss who rules over “Chor Bazar”, the secret market of thieves deep inside the slums of Dharavi. We gave him a disability (he’s wheelchair bound) to humanize him, yet made him cold and hard as Megatron’s balls. Fukku Bhai is a John Wayne fan and watches old westerns all day long. He carries an antique colt in an authentic wild west holster and doesn’t hesitate to shoot people who irritate him. He’s the king in his kingdom and you mess with him at your own peril.
Rather than being the antagonist, Fukku is sort of the local bigwig and plays a part in the story that suits his stature as the undisputed ruler of Chor Bazar, where his word is law.
Ron Marz (Witchblade, Green Lantern, Samurai: Heaven and Earth, Dragon Prince) had signed up as Editor for this title and we decided to follow up the main series with a 5 issue mini. So long story short, the entire 5 issue mini is up at “SCRIBD for FREE. I’ve created a SCRIBD collection for easy access.
The first series (created and written by Gotham) dealt with British soldier James Jensen, whose family (pregnant wife and son) was brutally murdered by his psycopathic commandant and nemesis Townsend. James was left for dead and was revived by a mystic, who initiated him into the ways of the Sadhu. But James was torn between quest for salvation and his thirst for vengeance. The main series ended with James slaying Townsend in London.
I had a ton of fun writing the series. I set out to create what I thought of as an “existential swashbuckler“, something that blended elements of mysticism, metaphysics and good old pulp adventures. Ron was an excellent guide in creating the story and mentored me as I learned the ropes. He also got some cool covers done by Brian Stelfreeze and Jefferey Spokes. The series had great interior art done by R. Manikandan (see the interior page pictured above and below).
Another strong aspect of the whole thing was that Ron and I decided to create a narrative which would be accessible to people who hadn’t read the main series. So if you haven’t read The Sadhu before, you can still enjoy The Silent Ones (or at least we tried our level best to make it so) 🙂
I introduced an ancient cult led by a fiesty Grand Mistress (yeah, that’s the pulp adventure part. this was my homage to Thugee lore and an honest attempt to grow beyond Mola Raam from INDIANA JONES AND TEMPLE OF DOOM), played with themes of multiple realities and pre-destiny/rebirth. We started the series off with James coming to know that his son is alive and that the child is a captive of the cult. James races against time to reach his son before they sacrifice him. But his path is not straight forward. He finds himself in Limbo (the void between universes) and encounters a character marooned there for centuries. (gawd, I so want to give out the details, but don’t want to spoil it for you). So why don’t you head on over to SCRIBD and see for yourself?
RYDERS is the story of vigilantes/outlaws armed with custom cars in a dystopic future where cities are ruled by totalitarian regimes who have outlawed free speech and personal vehicular ownership. It has kind of a Mad Max meets Fast & the Furious vibe. I borrowed a lot of motifs from Westerns in terms of setting and story elements. Dean did some fantastic art on this project (Might just be me but I felt a great Geoff Darrow vibe when I was visualizing the world and Dean delivered that tone pretty nicely).
I was kind of sad that (as I thought at the time) RYDERS got “lost” in the transition from Virgin to Liquid. Long story short, RYDERS is now available for purchase from Scribd. So if you like your dystopic future/post-apocalyptic melee and muscle cars, do check it out. 🙂
When i started writing comics, I’d make short photo collages to help visualize the page/panel layout and caption spaces etc. these were rough visual guidelines, which I’d then translate to a script.
click on the images for larger versions
Shown here are pages from DEVI #11 (W: Saurav Mohapatra / A: Edison George / E: Ron Marz). I never send these roughs to the artist. But Edison George’s final pages came pretty close to what I had visualized. With experience I have learned to keep the visualization phase completely in mental space, though from time to time, I do try to draw either stick figure layouts or do a photo collage before scripting the page.
It is my belief that a comic book writer should never enforce their view of what goes in a page to the artist. That is simply a very stifling experience for the artist and not a true collaboration. But sometimes if enough thought and TLC is put into the page design by the writer, most probably the artist would come up with the same or very similar solutions to the layout. After all it takes two (both writer and artist) to make a comic book 🙂
Thanks for the kind words, Nenena. It is much appreciated. These are the moments a writer lives for 🙂
The modern heir to Amar Chitra Katha, India Authentic comics are effing fantastic: A combination of spiritual lesson, high adventure tale, and artgasm after artgasm. All are fronted by Deepak Chopra’s poetic introductions. But the best part is the writing by Saurav Mohapatra. Mohapatra gets inside the heads of the gods and gives them voices that sound all-too-human; which is exactly what the Hindu gods, flawed and imperfect as they sometimes are, should sound like.
JZ was a real blast to write. I have fond memories of writing it. The character of Bhappi-da, the last of the DISCO gods is hands down my favorite ever, closely followed by Fukku Bhai from Mumbai Macguffin. Last I heard (from semi-realiable sources) UTV was making a movie out of it. Wonders of work-for-hire! I’m not involved in that. 🙁 But will go watch the movie when (and if) it gets made.
Oh! and I used to maintain a kind of scrapbook of Zhingchak sightings on the wild wild web. You can find it here.
About Jimmy Zhingchak
JIMMY ZHINGCHAK – AGENT OF D.I.S.C.O., written by Saurav Mohapatra and drawn by Anupam Sinha, is a spoof and a homage of ’80s bollywood disco zeitgeist, detailing the adventures of a disco dancing superspy who fights Sir John and his evil F.I.R.A.N.G. for the Dept. of Internal Security and Covert Operations (D.I.S.C.O.) [more..]
Thanks to Ron Marz, I got to attend the Albany Comic Convention on Nov 1st. This was my first time as an invited guest at a comic book show and I enjoyed it a lot. The excellent folks at That’s Entertainment (especially George and Pete) hooked me up with a ton of Mumbai Macguffin and Sadhu vol 2. – The Silent Ones TPB, so that I had some stuff to sell. Thanks to everyone who bought a copy. I managed to offload almost all the copies I had gone into the show with. Hope you enjoyed those, folks! 🙂
The show was small-ish but a ton of fun. I shared tablespace with Nick Taplansky, writer of AWAKENING (Archaia) and Dave Rodriguez, writer of STARKWEATHER: IMMORTAL (Archaia) and SHADOWGIRLS webcomic.
Had a blast with Ron and Matthew Dow Smith (Dr. Who, The Keep). Scored some free copies of Ron’s Samurai TPB vol 2. and Con exclusive cover WITCHBLADE (done by Matthew).
Towards the end of the show, chatted with Dennis Calero and found that we have a common friend. Small world, indeed.
So all in all, a good time. Looking forward to heading back there next spring in April 2010. Here are some pictures from the show.
A high-octane adventure through the never-before-seen underbelly of Mumbai, ace CIA operative Ike Flint finds himself out of his element and out of his depth when tasked with recovering a downed NSA satellite deep within the biggest slum in Asia. None of his experience can prepare him for the wild and dangerous characters his salvage uncovers: a wheelchair-riding gangster kingpin hooked on John Wayne westerns; a brilliant bar dancer who can solve calculus problems before breakfast; a trigger-happy cop who shoots criminals with the same nonchalance as if he were grocery shopping; a religious cult that will do anything to protect its phallic totem; and a crack team of Jihadists searching for the very thing Ike is seeking.
It was a kicker of a project to work on. I wrote a story about a near future America where much of the country is a barren wasteland after a cataclysmic nuclear strike by rogue nations. The population survives in huge fortified city states, where in order to keep them docile any form of ownership of private vehicles is denied by law.
Ryders is the story of a bunch of vehicular vigilantes who defy the status quo and become the law in the wastelands. They ultimately come head to head with the city states and thus begins the great muscle car rebellion 🙂
I wanted to get a Mad Max/Road Warrior meets Serenity kind of vibe for the story and the art by Dean Hyrapiet (Snake Woman, Virulents, Voodoo Child) was amazing.
Sadly, I don’t know if it ever came out or not. Well, them’s the breaks. Here is the comixology listing.